A Theoblogican Revolution

Is a blog just a “compilation of articles”, as CT define it? Or is there a revolution going on that mainstream publishers have not yet acknowledged?
I am sending an email to Christianity Today regarding their article, A Theoblogical Revolution. I waited a long time for them to write about blogging but think they could have done a better job. Maybe they should ask some of you to write an article that captures the passion of blogging, the culture of co-authorship, the open door for readers to become writers, the sign that we are actually living in a post-post-literate world.
I also want to challenge their assessment of Tim Benar who they suggest needs to “get a fact checker of his own”
The Skinny? Tim’s article (download PDF) is a well thought out piece that took a lot of research. [My only complaint is that he never gives a link to my site ha-ha-ha.] I know that Tim was bugging me for input for weeks and we all sent him our thoughts so that he would end up with an accurate assessment of blogging. CT should not be so quick to dismiss his findings. What do you think?
1. I found Tim’s earlier response to CT’s article.
2. Ted’s definition is of CT’s Weblog, not blogs in general, as he explains in the comments section.

Here is my short email:

Thanks for your article on blogging. I was hoping CT would tackle the subject.
For posterity’s sake, I just send these thoughts to you.
1. Yes, CT’s weblog, starting in 1999 is quite old. And Christians have been blogging much earlier. Joshua Rudd was blogging back in 1996. My blog “Andrew’s Tea Salon” started in 1997. I am sure there are others earlier than us who were using the web in this way.
2. Regarding the sentence “Tim Bednar needs a fact checker of his own” The fact is, Tim interviewed quite a number of leading theoblogians (most of whom were not mentioned in Ted’s article) and we feel his facts are solid. Tim is a good resource. Maybe you should ask him to write a worthy article about blogging.
3. CT’s definition of a blog “Weblog is a compilation of articles,” would receive negative feedback from bloggers if it were known. A blog post (new media) is not an article (old media) and does not need to reference articles to find value.

Thanks for listening
Andrew Jones


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • darren says:

    i’m yet to read tim’s article, although it is on my list of articles to read. i find it particularly interesting that TIME’s article on blogging was about 900% better than ct’s piece which is unfortunate.
    instead of getting tim to write a worthy article we should make a movie about a blogger who changes the world, we can take the script off of the movie “pump up the volume” and alter it from radio to blogging…

  • brad says:

    actually, i read almost no Christian print media anymore … which means i don’t read CT. should i? am i really missing out on something important from them? or is the reality vice versa …?

  • will says:

    There is more here at stake than definitions. I personally still read CT and I think that they have a role to play in the Church. However, much of the Western Church tends to look to CT (or publications to their right theologically) for information. It seems to me that ideas like Tim proposed in his article scare people, because at it threatens the structures by which they define themselves as the people of God.

  • Ted Olsen says:

    How ironic is it that I found this post before I received your e-mail? Anyway, a few responses
    1) Yeah, but I did say “among the oldest,” and few extant ones were wholly devoted to religion blogging before we started.
    2) I wrote that article late last year, before Tim Bednar’s full white paper came out, but after he’d written his initial thesis. I find it intriguing, but I still find it misguided on a number of points, and wrong on others. Saying he “needs a fact checker of his own” was a comment that referred back to an earlier point in my article, and my doing so wasn’t intended as a slam on Bednar so much as it was a twist: as great as the blogosphere is, and as collectively “smart” as it is, I’d rather have one professional, independent fact checker than read a hundred partisan blogs. I like Bednar, I really really do.
    3) Speaking of fact-checking, read that “What is Weblog” page again. It’s not what is A weblog, it’s what is “Weblog,” as in CT’s Weblog. “Weblog is a compilation of articles, and therefore doesn’t involve any original reporting, nor does it necessarily strive to separate hard news from opinion.” Note: “Weblog is,” not “Weblogs are.” And I begin by saying “there are many ideas of what a weblog is and should be,” linking to articles from everyone from Rebecca Blood to Andrew Sullivan.
    As for CT’s coverage of weblogs, I would have liked to do a larger piece on weblogs (my article was actually the intro to a new feature in the print magazine: Weblog in Print, an effort to capture blog style in print). But it’s rather ridiculous to write on this topic at this juncture. There is nothing unitive that can be said about the blog world, even the Christian blog world. There are too many exceptions to any observation that can be made. I’m sure you and your readers will take issue with that comment, but that’s my $.02.

  • Ted Olsen says:

    Will wrote: “It seems to me that ideas like Tim proposed in his article scare people, because at it threatens the structures by which they define themselves as the people of God.”
    Really? Because it seems to me that the traditional structure of the Church is what really scares people these days. We’re all very happy to think of ourselves as “smarter than our pastors” and emphasize the “priesthood of all belivers” as we tell our church leaders that they can’t tell us what to think and do.
    Biblically, I see Christ’s kingdom as one of servant leadership. There are two parts of that: One, the church needs professional leaders who are particularlly called by God, ordained by the Church, and held especially accountable for their teachings and actions. (I also believe in the importance of priests for the sacraments.) Two, those leaders need to be servants of the church. Yes, there are many problems with this in the contemporary church, but I would say that most pastors I know do a better job with humility than most bloggers I read (especially of the Fisking kind).

  • Gary Manders says:

    I don’t think Ted Olson gives Bednar’s article the credit it deserves. It’s provocative and unsettling in parts( as Brad states) but in my view accurate about the dynamic impact of blogging. Tim I loved the article and it gave me much to think about.

  • Andrew Jones says:

    Hi Ted. Yes, ironic! I guess i wont need to send you anything, except this comment.
    thanks for speaking out – much appreciated. i like your 3 points and they add clarity. I hope i was not unfair re: your treatment of Tim. When he was doing his research, i sent a letter out to all the bloggers he was interviewing and told them i was fully cooperating because i believed in the importance of his paper. when i read you calling it a “gushing” i was a little offended and wondered if you really knew the extent that tim went (and all of us who contributed) to create a weighty paper.
    – whether tim’s article holds water or not will be left to the blogging community. i have invited them to read the 45 page document and discuss it with my next tuesday at Suddenly Seminary (a visual chat room).
    – I love CT. Kevin Miller has become a friend of the blogging community due to his banter with us regarding pomo issues (he is a great sport and understands the processing of truth thru time and community midrash) and John Wilson has been a friend for years. CT have published a few things of mine in the past, and i am grateful that they offer all their resources for free on the internet.
    [in response to Brad – yes – u should read CT online – in fact, i receive their monthly emailer with links to their best articles]
    CT mag is in the article industry and CT Weblog is an ‘article weblog’. nothing wrong with that. there are photo blogs, knitting blogs, blogs about everything . . . and your Weblog tracks articles. Unlike most blogs, it doesnt allow people to comment directly into the posts [yes, there is a message board to comment on the articles], doesnt have any original thoughts, and it doesnt seem connected to the history/geography of where the posts are being sent. Nor does it allow us a personal view of you or the other authors [which would be a welcome addition]. But it should be commended for continuity, simplicity and generousity.
    thanks for the clarity regarding ‘weblog’ and your “Weblog”. This is important to us. Because while your Weblog ‘doesnt involve any original reporting’, our weblogs contain most (if not ‘all’) of our original thoughts and poems and ideas. We feel that we are adding vital original thought to the blogosphere, and doing so mostly without resorting to or referencing other people’s articles.
    Thanks again for your thoughts.

  • Tim Bednar says:

    Oh my, I went on vacation and look what happened. I am so glad that all the work bloggers like Andrew did to help me research the paper seem to be doing what was intended. (So far it has been downloaded 1700 times.) I am personally indebted to all of them.
    [EXCURSUS] I am the type who works really hard to answer the question (six months to write that paper) and once I feel comfortable with it, I move on many times without finishing anything. I am more interested in the participatory church of which blogging is a small part. So, I’m pretty happy with myself that I actually “finished” the paper. If I had my way, it would have been even longer, but I forced myself to finish and publish it. [End EXCURSUS]
    As for the title and my claims, I have gotten comments on either side. And lots of folks (really) dislike the title. The best comment on that side came from a journalist who want to see a blog called, “I know more than my doctor”. After reading the several dozen reviews of the paper, I am currently working on a explaining my meaning which I hope to publish soon. But I think I’m sticking with the title.
    The thing is that I’m not satisfied with the “revolution” that we have started in the so-called emergent church. Jordon Cooper recently wrote,
    “I was reflecting on all three thoughts and I started to wonder if we have even started to emerge from anything or are we just the natural evolution of the seeker church movement with a new lingo. Has candles, icons and acoustic guitars and blogging replaced color coordinated shirts, keyboards, and sermons on dealing with stress and marriage. A couple months ago I sat in on a conference call with some church leaders and the idea was floated that since the reformation, all that has really changed in churches is about 10%. The organ rolls out and the praise band rolls in. The cross comes down and some screen go up.”
    I tend to agree with him, even in my own church planting experience in Uptown Minneapolis. I personally feel like I need to push the ideas and doctrines of participatory church to its limits. I want to know what a church looks like if everyone says, “I’m my own priest.” Why? Because I think that the participatory church has the possibility to evangelize those so-called unchurched people who like me are doubters, liberals, entrepreneurs, creatives. My problem is that I do know when I’m writing out of my own hurt or cynicism or reflecting something real.
    After reading Barna’s research that reports that the “unchurched” in America doubled since 1991, I think we can safely say that Rick Warren and Bill Hybel’s consumer focused church models did a great job building larger churches AND large numbers of unchurched.
    I personally think megachurches have “saturated the market”. I am interested in figuring out how to join the conversation that the unchurched our having, on their terms, using their words and theology–this is the fundamental assumption of my idea surrounding the participatory church. I am currently trying to answer this question,
    How can the statement “I know more than my pastor” become the call of revival rather than rebellion.
    In my view, it can either end in new religions being formed, individualism or revival. I think there are millions of people who say or will say “I know more than my pastor”. Right now, the church does not seem to have an answer to that claim except to say, “No you don’t”. And we wonder why they do not listen to us. My hope is to figure out how to present the gospel to them AND build the church. Maybe it is not possible.
    But we don’t know do we?

  • brad says:

    I am one of those 1700 who downloaded Tim’s article. Finished reading it this afternoon. Thanks for the immense amount of work in writing your paper, Tim. I appreciate you doing it!
    And I especially appreciate how the issue of participatory culture provides the larger framework of discussion for you. I’ll figure out more comments on the paper later, but at the moment, I’d like to chime in on Tim’s question about *How can the statement “I know more than my pastor” become the call of revival rather than rebellion?*
    I still find it difficult to get a hearing among my own generational peers about the realities of emerging cultures. I’m almost half a century old, so you’d think I’d be heard more easily perhaps than the 20/30-somethings who could be my children. And yet, I’m not. It is frustrating when my own cries for understanding meet with walls of silence (or worse). I feel like my attempts to shout out a message about the world of post-postmoderns often turns into shrieks because no one seems to be listening.
    And yet, as one who embraces a theology which says that personal choice matters, I should pump down my volume and pray for their volition. That’s difficult. I’m wrestling all the time with finding the borders between being contemptuous and being constructive.
    It isn’t easy, and I fear for those in the traditional church who refuse to listen to the questions our cultures as posing. My own blog is peppered with my mental wrenchings over how to present a provocative message, yet not usurp the responsibility of others to choose. (“He who has an ear to hear, let him hear!”) And then there are wrestlings over my identification with the melancholy for the older generation due to the apparent break in the chain of legacy in churches, yet wondering if this is a Kadesh-Barnea moment for the Kingdom, and these same older generations must simply be allowed to die in the wilderness in order for the next generations to emerge without the residual baggage.
    But oh, wow – when God provides someone who gets it that they need to get it, and so they ask for our input as the real cultural insiders! My pastor in Marin is such a leader. He’s introduced me as his mentor in helping understand emerging generations and postmodern cultures. He’s sought to lead the way to embrace 20/30-somethings into leadership roles so they can begin stewarding the church’s legacy, and prepare for even more changes to come.
    The reality is, it takes humility on both sides for this to turn into a revival. And many days, I know I need as much heart-softening as the next person, regardless of our age differential, in order to reach out open arms with welcome and open hands to receive an invitation in…

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